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Obama’s High Court List Is Led By Women Judges And Politicians

Publication Date: 
May 08, 2009
Bloomberg News
Edwin Chen

Professor and former Dean Kathleen M. Sullivan and Professor Pamela S. Karlan are highlighted in a Bloomberg News article that discusses the possible candidates that might replace the departing Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court:

President Barack Obama’s first U.S. Supreme Court appointment probably will be drawn from a group of women who have achieved prominence in the law or politics, ensuring more diversity and possibly more real-world experience for the high court.


Kathleen Sullivan: She is a pragmatist who sees both sides of an issue, said Laurence Tribe, Sullivan’s professor at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later her law partner.

“She’s gifted at getting to the heart of things,” Tribe said in a telephone interview.

The 53-year-old constitutional law expert at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges LLP in New York was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and grew up in Queens, New York. She attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with plans to become a literature professor.

She became interested in law after being influenced by what she viewed as the heroic role attorneys played in the Watergate scandal, according to the Harvard Law Bulletin. After Cornell, Sullivan studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University in England, received a law degree from Harvard in 1981 and clerked two years for Judge James Oakes on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

Sullivan started a constitutional law practice with Tribe in 1982. She was co-counsel with him in a 1984 property case in which they successfully defended Hawaii’s land redistribution act, which confiscated property from large landowners and gave it to tenants.

She joined the faculty at Harvard in 1984 and remained there until she went to teach at Stanford Law School in Stanford, California, in 1993, becoming its first woman dean in 1999. In 2006 she founded the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, which has filed briefs in support of Muslim prisoners seeking dietary accommodations and civil liberties groups challenging the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.


-- Pamela S. Karlan: The professor of public-interest law at Stanford Law School in Stanford, California, is a founder and co-director of the school’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, which takes cases to the court without charging clients.

Karlan, 50, won four of the six cases she argued before the high court. She filed a brief on behalf of House Judiciary Committee members backing a central provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires officials in all or part of 16 states to get Justice Department clearance before changing district lines or balloting procedures. The case was argued in April.


A graduate of Yale Law School, she clerked for Blackmun.

Karlan, who joined Stanford’s faculty in 1998 after teaching at the University of Virginia School of Law, is a frequent commentator on Public Broadcasting Service’s “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” She’s an expert on voting rights, civil rights and criminal procedure.